The Mediator

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Cambodia trying to make sure the country remains independent of China and pressing for prosecution of Khmer Rouge leaders. With China one of Cambodia’s largest single aid donors, Washington worries that the country (along with other Southeast Asian nations) is firmly in Beijing’s sphere of influence. Clinton said that while the United States encouraged close relations between Cambodia and its larger neighbor, Phnom Penh should find its own foreign-policy course: “I think it's smart for Cambodia to be friends with many countries. Look for balance. You don't want to become too dependent on any one country.” The secretary of state also said Washington would attempt to get more funding for UN-supported trials of four of the Khmer Rouge’s top officials for genocide committed in the 1970s.

Clinton was in Vietnam over the weekend for the ASEAN conference in Hanoi. The meeting took place in the shadow of ongoing disputes in the region, especially between Beijing and Tokyo. Japan’s prime minister and China’s premier briefly met on Friday, but that didn’t stop China’s assistant foreign minister from saying that Japan “should take responsibility for ruining the atmosphere for leaders of the two countries.” Clinton offered to mediate between China and Japan, even though Washington has repeatedly stated its obligation to defend Japan if its territory is encroached upon. In Hanoi, the secretary of state said, “We’ve encouraged both Japan and China to seek a peaceful resolution of any disagreement.”

General David Petraeus took to the airwaves over the weekend. On CNN, the head of forces in Afghanistan said that Taliban momentum has “broadly been arrested in the country.” What’s more, ISAF and Afghan troops are actually gaining momentum in some areas. Of course, all of that can be reversed once again. Petraeus thinks he’ll be able to tell President Obama that troop withdrawals can begin in July of next year, but he’s not 100% certain how many could pull out at that point.